Health IT chief: same ROI challenge

Watch that Pocket PC. Joanne Bos, operational IT head of healthAlliance, was greatly taken with the potential of the phone-PDA device for the health sector following Steve Ballmer's visit to Sydney last month.

Watch that Pocket PC.

Joanne Bos (pictured left), operational IT head of healthAlliance, was greatly taken with the potential of the phone-PDA device for the health sector following Steve Ballmer’s visit to Sydney last month.

Bos, who travelled to Australia for Ballmer’s visit, oversees the IT functions of the Counties-Manukau and Waitemata district health boards under the banner of healthAlliance, a company 50% owned by each board.

She believes the XDA Pocket PC Phone launched by Ballmer during his visit has huge implications for the health sector “in terms of bedside care and real-time access to patient information”.

There are no plans as yet to use such a device, “but it’s something we’ll be watching very carefully”, she says. “It’s a matter of which applications will be available on it, how we manage to fund it and making sure we will get benefits.”

Microsoft is the two DHBs’ major software vendor. “They’re on every desktop and most servers.”

A decision on purchasing the PDA, or any other IT investment, would ultimately be made by the healthAlliance board, which includes representatives from both DHBs, Bos says.

She says assessing the return on investment for IT in the health sector is similar to the private sector in that everything has to have a business case and go through the same process of approval by the board. “If you can’t make a case, you don’t get the dosh.”

Auckland district health board CIO Steven Mayo-Smith (pictured right) notes that the return on investment assessment process for IT investments in the health sector has extra dimensions not seen in the private sector.

“We’re not a commercial organisation. We’re providing for the health of New Zealanders and the ROI for IT systems has two com-ponents, one qua-litative and the other quan-titative.

The qualitative involves looking at patient outcomes and patient safety — how does an IT system provide those benefits.

The quantitative involves asking ‘what are the costs and benefits?’ For example, with a server consolidation, what benefits would we get?”

The second part of the quantitative aspect involves efficiency “and looking at the more normal business case, using net present value analysis”.

A major project for the Auckland DHB is the new hospital being built in Grafton, due for completion in October of next year. Some IT purchasing decisions for it have been made and others are going through the business case process, Mayo-Smith says.

Hardware and software has been purchased for new radiography and scanning facilities. The scanning involves replacing paper records with electronic ones. Agfa products are being used for the radiology, he says.

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